In recent years, there have been many changes in the way new moms and dads handle getting their newborns on a regular eat/sleep schedule. Pediatricians used to push hard for parents to get baby on a schedule as soon as they brought them home from the hospital. This thinking has evolved over the last several years into waiting to see what the baby's schedule is, and then making smaller adjustments that best suit the family. It's much better not to upset the pattern of natural rhythms the baby began before birth, and then ease them into the schedule your family keeps.
The first thing to do when baby comes home from the hospital is simply to become aware of your baby's patterns for eating and sleeping. This schedule will be the basis for your baby's personal schedule. The four important things to note when observing this schedule are when he eats, how long he sleeps, when he is alert and the one many new parents forget to make a note of, when a bowel movement occurs with relationship to the other three. Another very important thing to remember for the first couple weeks is to be sure you build trust by tending to your newborn when they awake from sleep. The security of your baby knowing his needs will be met, is the first thing to establish before any routine is changed.
Make only small adjustments in the beginning. If you wish to go to sleep at 9:30PM but you know the baby will awaken at 11:00PM, go ahead and wake the baby early. This is the first step in establishing a schedule that can work for both of you at nighttime.
During the day, try to feed your baby every four hours. If your baby generally naps longer and is far too asleep to eat, then your baby may not be ready for four-hour intervals. Wait a week or so and try again. By the same token, feed baby more often if your baby requires it. Many babies need more time to adjust to life outside the womb before adjusting to the family schedule.
If your baby falls fast asleep in the middle of a feeding, then wakes up after a short nap, you must find a way to prolong the feeding until the baby has had enough to eat. Changing your baby's diaper mid-feeding will surely get his attention. If you're breast feeding you may decide to feed for a shorter period of time on each breast, at the beginning, to insure your baby has had enough milk before falling asleep. Putting your baby to bed only when he is comfortably full, dry and burped. Burping is important to insure a restful sleep.
Finally, make your schedule predictable for the new baby. The baby will quickly get used having a bath or a walk at the same time each day. Establishing a routine for your baby coupled with sleeping and eating schedules will make for a much happier adjustment for the entire family.